The international body that represents mountaineers has welcomed China’s decision to ban under-18s climbing Everest.
The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme was responding to the announcement by the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association made following the ascent of the world’s highest peak last month by 13-year-old Californian Jordan Romero. Nepal already bars mountaineers under 16 from making an attempt on Everest. The Nepal Mountaineering Association also welcomed the ban. But the Chinese authorities’ decision to put an upper age limit of 60 on those attempting Everest from the Tibetan side was criticised by the UIAA.
Clare Bond, president of the UIAA’s access commission, said: “While concerned about the restrictions on the freedom for exploration and human endeavour, the commission applauds the actions of the CTMA and the NMA to protect minors by placing a lower age restriction on summiting Everest.” President of the UIAA youth commission Anne Arran, added: “Climbing Everest is a great challenge but not without risk and young climbers should not be pushed to undertake it.” UIAA president Mike Mortimer said young mountaineers lacked not only climbing experience, but also maturity.
But he said preventing older climbers was worrying. “The issue of an upper age limit would seem to be very arbitrary and should be of concern,” he said. “Many climbers over the age of 60 have safely climbed Everest and other high peaks. Although medical considerations might present problems, the older climber often has a wealth of experience missing from younger people.” Lindsay Griffin of the British Mountaineering Council, which is affiliated to the UIAA, said is not yet clear if the age restrictions will also apply to other high peaks on the Himalayan divide.
Mr Griffin said: “The decision has been made in the aftermath of May’s Everest ascent by 13-year-old Jordan Romero. “Nine years ago Nepali schoolboy Temba Tsheri [Sherpa] became the youngest Everest summiteer at the age of 16 and 17 days but lost several toes and fingers to frostbite. This put pressure on the Nepalese Government to ban young climbers, and in 2003 it set a minimum age of 16. However, there is currently no upper limit. “There do seem to be loopholes in the Chinese regulations. In exceptional circumstances the CTMA may issue a permit to a mountaineer outside the declared age range.
Applications will be considered from climbers outside this age span if they can provide a medical certificate showing they are fit enough to make the ascent, though it is believed that this is most likely aimed at climbers over 60.” All applications to climb Everest from the northern side have to be made through the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association, an affiliate of the UIAA.